Former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering has a sordid history with the telecom industry. After all, it was a secret love affair with Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, whose family owns Cellular South, that ended the Mississippi congressman’s political career and marriage. A very public divorce exposed his sexscapades and brought into question thousands of dollars in donations he received from his mistress’s menage while serving on the U.S. House Telecommunications Subcommittee. Adding insult to incest, Pickering picked up a gig lobbying for Cellular South in 2009 after “retiring” from Congress.
One might think Chip’s will to shill would have subsided now that his torrid telecom relationships have been exposed. But no, not the case. In a piece penned for RealClearPolitics (RCP) yesterday, Pickering bashed a proposed merger between telecom giants AT&T and T-Mobile. Sure, his experience qualifies him to offer an expert opinion but his bio read like this:
“Chip Pickering represented Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District from 1996 – 2008. During that time, he served as the vice chairman of House Energy and Commerce Committee and was the first chairman of the House Wireless Caucus. Prior to his work in the U.S. House, he helped shape the landmark Telecom Act of 1996 as a staffer for U.S. Senator Trent Lott and the Senate Commerce Committee.”
The piece made no mention of the fact that the former congressman is now formally funded by opponents of the AT&T merger. So we contacted RCP to find out why they failed to disclose Pickering’s role as a telecom lobbyist and to see if they thought their readers deserved to know when a contributor had been paid to take a position.
Carl Cannon said in response, “We strive to make transparent the various axes our op-ed writers have to grind, and so have added this to our description of the author of that piece, which is still on our site: He currently represents COMPTEL, the leading industry association of competitive communications providers and their supplier partners.”
But still no mention of his role as a telecom “lobbyist” at Capitol Resources LLC which lists a number of small telecom clients and clearly touts Pickering’s experience in the industry. Is RCP’s revised disclosure enough?
In his reply to FishbowlDC, Cannon pointed out a piece that provides the perspectives of Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive officer, as proof of fair and balanced coverage. But RCP’s idea of a counter argument is simply a transcript of Stephenson’s May 11, 2011 Senate testimony that clearly states his position as CEO and Chairman of AT&T.
Even Stephen? Sound off.